By Nitin Dahad
Agtech (or agritech) seems to be a major topic of interest among our audience involved in economic development, policymaking and technology innovation. Since we published an article on the New Zealand agtech cluster, we’ve had a huge response. As we mentioned previously, the enormous rise in demand to meet the growing population puts food security as a key item on the agenda of visionary policymakers.
We clearly have a convergence – of food demand and of technology costs being driven low due to the availability of mass-volume low cost sensors and other electronics and software applications capable of constant monitoring and delivering process efficiencies.
A quick search on the web also highlights the current importance of agtech – with headlines such as ‘Can agritech save the future of food?, and investments in agritech startups such as EM3 AgriServices and Crofarm in India, and ongoing initiatives like the Montana Development Authority’s AgriTech Park in the USA. It’s clear that many of these are addressing the entire value chain of the agricultural technology ecosystem.
With this interest, it’s no surprise that major industry players are also getting in on the act. For example, DuPont announced it is acquiring San Francisco-based Granular, Inc., a provider of software and analytics tools that help farms improve efficiency, profitability and sustainability.
DuPont says that with its focus on developing innovative solutions to help growers build strong, sustainable businesses, it is trying to create a digital agriculture ecosystem to support information sharing, services and commerce. The acquisition will enable the business to connect growers, analytics and public and private data to advance its vision for a digitally connected, more sustainable agriculture industry.
Granular was founded in 2014 with the mission of helping farmers operate more efficient and profitable businesses. The company serves many of the farms in the industry across the United States, Canada and Australia. Granular’s claims it has generated significant value for growers farming nearly 2 million acres of commodity and specialty crops.
This acquisition follows DuPont’s growth strategy outlined earlier this year for the agriculture sector. Executive vice-president James C. Collins said in March 2017, “As demand for grain and other food products continues to increase, the most urgent challenge for growers is to improve crop productivity on every acre. As a result of our ongoing strategic investments in agriculture research, DuPont has the tools to help growers produce more crops on each acre, which drives value for our customers and our shareholders. Addressing these challenges creates attractive long-term growth opportunities for DuPont.”
Innovation in agriculture and the emergence of agtech is likely to be a critical component to sustainable productivity growth. As we highlighted before, this will be an absolute necessity if the sector is to meet rising food demand, and to enhance a complex food chain that consists of food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management. Agtech and foodtech could indeed make farmers smarter and improve processes in the entire value chain so that yields are improved and waste is minimized.